Star Trek Discovery’s version of the legendary USS Enterprise – which made a surprise appearance at the end of the show’s first season finale – was slightly redesigned for legal purposes, according to show designer John Eaves.
While Discovery is technically a prequel taking place about a decade before the events of the original series, the show’s look is decidedly flashier than its 1960s forerunner. Some of that was inevitable; it wouldn’t really be practical to make a show that looked as outdated as the now 50 year old TOS. However, Star Trek’s legal entanglements have gotten decidedly more complicated in the last decade, and many have speculated how much of Discovery’s tinkering with the look and lore of the franchise was due to what they were and were not allowed to use.
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We now have at least a partial answer. According to io9, show designer John Eaves confirmed the Enterprise design was altered for legal reasons, though he’s less than clear on the parameters of those legal limitations.
After Enterprise, properties of Star Trek ownership changed hands and was divided,, so what was able to cross TV shows up to that point changed and a lot of the crossover was no longer allowed. That is why when J.J. [Abrams]’s movie came along everything had to be different. The alternate universe concept was what really made that movie happen in a way as to not cross the new boundaries and give Trek a new footing to continue.
This is a confusing comment. When Viacom split up in 2005, CBS Television ended up with the TV rights to Star Trek, and Paramount Pictures ended up with the rights to the movies. It’s never been made explicit what each entity was and wasn’t allowed to use, but the corporate split has long been credited as the reason Star Trek remained off television screens for over a decade. Eaves suggests Discovery couldn’t use the original Enterprise design for the same reasons Abrams’ films couldn’t…but Discovery is produced by CBS, which controls Star Trek’s television back catalog. How would that cause a conflict? Is there some sort of agreement between CBS and Paramount where neither party can use certain aspects of the original series? This could theoretically be an explanation for Discovery’s controversial overhaul of the Klingons.
This is the sort of squabbling that hamstrung Marvel’s myriad superhero franchises for so many years, before Disney began gobbling up all the corporate entities that controlled Marvel’s film rights. Rumors have circulated for awhile that Viacom is mulling a re-merger, which would put all of Star Trek back under one corporate umbrella. Seeing as how this once mighty franchise is currently so fractured, surely that would be the best outcome to get the Enterprise – redesigned or not – back up to warp speed.
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